Oh, wow. Because the tiny sliver of Pluto at sunset wasn’t enough, now we get the full view of what the New Horizons spacecraft saw just moments after its closest approach. And it’s absolutely gorgeous.
The wide-angle view was captured by New Horizons just 15 minutes after the spacecraft’s closest approach on July 14, 2015. At 18,000 kilometers (11,000 miles) away, the image captures features as small as 700 meters (0.4 miles) across. Along with holding a wealth of scientific details, it’s absolutely gorgeous and our new favourite wallpaper.
The most striking feature is the haze encircling the little dwarf planet, with at least twelve fine layers reaching into space and thick fog sneaking into deep valleys. Along with the previously-revealed dramatic landscape of Sputnik Planum flanked by rugged ice mountains, now we can see silhouetted profiles of landscapes on the dark side of the little world. Rough plateaus dominate the nightside of Pluto, with shadows cast by surface teasing the fine layers of haze.
In the background, faint streaks mark stars blurred by the spacecraft’s camera turning to track Pluto during the high-speed encounter.
Top image: Wide-angle crescent Pluto from 18,000 kilometers (11,000 miles) away at a resolution of 700 meters (0.4 miles) per pixel. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI